A world of Aven­tura

BALANC­ING A DOSE OF VI­TA­MIN D WITH AN ADREN­A­LINE RUSH, EMILY SHEL­LEY TAKES HER FAM­ILY TO SPAIN’S PORTAVENTU­RA WORLD

Llanelli Star - - GET AWAY -

HALF a mil­lion Brits fly to Barcelona ev­ery year and don’t see any­thing of the city and its fa­mous ar­chi­tec­ture. And no, they’re not on stag dos...

They’re head­ing straight to the No.1. leisure des­ti­na­tion in the Mediter­ranean: PortAventu­ra World.

This col­lec­tion of theme parks and ho­tels, with a wa­ter park, a beach club and new attraction­s ev­ery year, is sec­ond only to Dis­ney­land Paris on the Euro­pean vis­i­tor leader­board.

It has the same at­ten­tion to de­tail as Dis­ney, and the same fo­cus on fam­ily but with the added ben­e­fit of the Barcelona weather.

There are five themed ho­tels to choose from, each with pools and gar­dens. We’re stay­ing in a US frontier town from the late 19th cen­tury called Sullivan City, home of Ho­tel Gold River. Here, vis­i­tors can sleep in the town’s ‘jail’ and eat in its ‘opera house’, while dodg­ing sky-high cacti and jig­ging along to piped cow­boy mu­sic.

Our room is in Cal­laghan’s, a smart board­ing house build­ing around the cen­tral square.

Ho­tel guests get Ex­press passes to the theme parks in­cluded in their ticket, so if you can tear your­self away from the beau­ti­ful ‘desert river’ swim­ming pools around the ho­tel, it’s a short walk across a foot­bridge to the main park en­trance.

Ex­press means just that: no queues for any rides. This is worth its weight in frontier gold if you’ve small chil­dren with you. It also opens up so many more rides than you’d ever usu­ally have time for, and gives you the space to watch a show and stop for lunch.

While you can find the usual theme park fare of burg­ers and chips here, this is Spain, so we sit down to tapas and fresh seafood by

the ‘har­bour’.

It strikes us how much has been done to make sure there is some­thing to ap­peal to ev­ery mem­ber of the fam­ily, from grand­par­ents who can en­joy the­atre shows, beau­ti­ful gar­dens and gen­tle boat rides, to teens seek­ing the big­gest thrills on the con­ti­nent, and tod­dlers who are so of­ten for­got­ten by these kinds of attraction­s.

Here are the top 10 things you must do in PortAventu­ra World...

1. ZOOM THROUGH SESAME STREET

NEW for the 2019 sea­son is Street Mis­sion, a ‘dark ride’ on a Sesame Street taxi that sums up what PortAventu­ra is all about.

You can ride it with a one-year-old, but our teenage daugh­ter also thinks this is one of the best ex­pe­ri­ences in the park. Put on 3D glasses and use a laser gun to shoot cook­ies for Cookie Mon­ster as you zoom around a part real/part CGI Sesame Street, with enough twists, turns and fake falls to give ev­ery­one a sur­prise.

And the big­gest thrill of all? Re­al­is­ing you’ve beaten your dad on the leader­board on the way out.

2. AC­CEL­ER­ATE TO 180MPH IN FIVE SEC­ONDS

ONE of the theme parks on of­fer is Fer­rari Land, which is a smart Italian-themed col­lec­tion of driv­ing and speed-based rides.

As well as sam­pling awe­some pasta here, you must ex­pe­ri­ence the Red Force, which has a min­i­mum height re­quire­ment of 1.4m.

This ver­ti­cal ac­cel­er­a­tor ride can be seen from miles around as it rises to 112m high. You know it’ll be fast when they hand you gog­gles.

Once you’ve been shot up this tower like a bul­let from a gun, it’s up to grav­ity and the wind speed – you’ll go all the way over the top and back down, or fall back­wards to where you

started.

3. DRIVE A FER­RARI

OK, not a real Fer­rari. But on var­i­ous sim­u­la­tors, you can drive a Fer­rari around the world, an F1 ver­sion around Monte Carlo, and then with more com­pe­ti­tion than nec­es­sary a real-life go-cart Fer­rari in a race against the kids. In Fer­rari Land, there’s also a kids’ ver­sion of the Red Force ac­cel­er­a­tor and a large play area.

4. SLIDE DOWN THE HI­MALAYAS

THE Shamb­hala ride in the ‘China’ re­gion of the main park is iconic among roller­coaster fans.

It’s the tallest in Europe at 76m high, has the long­est de­scent with a drop of 78m and is still the fastest, reach­ing speeds of 134mph.

Like climb­ing Ever­est, this is not for ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing me. Thank­fully, there’s a mini-model of the Great Wall on which to stand and watch those much braver than your­self de­scend it.

5. RIDE A FLY­ING FISH

IN the area of the park for younger fam­i­lies, Se­samoAven­tura – it’s all Sesame Street-themed – is this seem­ingly in­nocu­ous ride.

A ma­jor hit with us, it in­volves get­ting your own fish to steer through the wa­ter as you spin round, try­ing and fail­ing to splash your sib­lings. In fact, much of this area de­signed for par­ents to ride with ba­bies and tod­dlers ap­peals to our older kids.

We pull our way up a tower in swing­ing chairs, ride the child­friendly Tami Tami roller coaster and run around the ‘magic tree’ at its cen­tre. There’s also handy hut serv­ing café con leche and chur­ros.

6. FLY LIKE A CON­DOR

TO be more ex­act, you’ll fall like a con­dor, drop­ping 86m ver­ti­cally at 100mph. Hu­rakan Con­dor is the main ride in the ‘Mex­ico’ area of the

park, and not ad­vis­able af­ter a taco lunch. You’ll get a good view of the re­sort on the way up, but don’t ex­pect to see any­thing on the way down, as it takes just three sec­onds.

7. BAT­TLE THE TEMPLO DEL FUEGO

THIS is one of the 40 shows you can catch across the parks, from Wild West shoot­ing stunts, to Poly­ne­sian danc­ing.

In the Templo, which is set in­side a replica Mayan pyra­mid, you’ll fol­low an ex­plorer through a se­ries of chal­lenges and dodge shoot­ing flames and un­ex­pected ex­plo­sions.

8. HUR­TLE DOWN A TIN MINE

A FIRM fam­ily favourite is the run­way mine train called El Di­ablo. With just enough thrills to keep the kids happy with­out ter­ri­fy­ing mum, the Ex­press passes mean we re­peat this sev­eral times in a row, and then a few more times, just to make sure we haven’t missed any of the sharp cor­ners.

9. RACE IN A STAM­PEDE

ONE of the first rides built in the park more than 20 years ago, Stamp­ida has two click-clack big dip­pers that ‘race’ each other. Pick a side – red or blue – and pre­pare to have your bones shaken as you fly over the gi­ant wooden con­struc­tion. Some­times blue wins and some­times red wins, but whether by de­sign or chance, we never find out.

When you emerge, there are a host of US county fair-style attraction­s to play on, or you can catch a can-can show.

10. GET WET WITH­OUT GET­TING COLD

ALONG with the Caribe Aqua Park, there are sev­eral ‘wet’ rides in the main park: Grand Canyon Rapids, the Sil­ver River Flume, and the wa­ter-shoot­ing Angkor river ride, not to men­tion the Tu­tuki Splash ride through a vol­cano.

That’s when the Span­ish sun­shine comes into its own, as for the first time ever, it’s ac­tu­ally quite a re­lief to cool down on one of these things.

Even bet­ter, bring your swim­ming cos­tume and head to the re­sort’s Caribe Aquatic Park. It has the tallest wa­ter slide in Europe: the King Kha­juna. There’s a white sand lagoon where you can get your adren­a­line lev­els back to nor­mal on a sun lounger.

Emily Shel­ley and her two chil­dren at PortAventu­ra

Se­samo Aven­tura

The Stamp­ida ride at PortAventu­ra

Ho­tel Cal­laghan’s

The Shamb­hala ride

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.